Property Woes Raise Questions of Settlement’s Financial Stability


By PATRICK COBBS

Staff Writer

 

On July 29, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (RDA) moved to foreclose on the former Women’s Y building at 5820-5824 Germantown Avenue, over its owner Germantown Settlement. It is the most recent in a string of actions against the non-profit organization, which is currently under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office.


Meanwhile, though the combined amount of loan defaults verified through court filings for Settlement properties is over $8.8 million, its president, Emanuel Freeman, insists that things are under control. As for the Women’s Y building, a recent agreement with the RDA and a new private developer, who Freeman declined to name, would keep the property in Settlement’s hands, Freeman said in a phone interview this week.


“The YWCA has been resolved,” he said.


But the RDA looks at it a bit differently. In response to Freman’s comments, Teresa Gillen, RDA executive director, said that the RDA has agreed to give Settlement more time to develop the property, but that comes to about three or four months, she said, to “make the numbers work.” And the agency has reserved the right to proceed with its takeover if those numbers don’t work out, she said.


Tax liens

The Women’s Y property is also subject to $881,000 in federal tax liens for Settlement’s alleged failure to pay the employer’s portion of federal withholdings including Medicare for its workers. In addition, the state departments of Revenue and Labor & Industry have assessed $217,000 in liens on the property due to missing payments for unemployment compensation and other state employee compensation obligations.


In fact, since 2008, Germantown Settlement and its subsidiary, the Greater Germantown Housing Development Corporation (GGHDC) have been assessed a total of $1.6 million for missed tax payments. In addition, the organization’s non-profit status is currently “pending,” according the Pennsylvania Bureau of Charitable Organizations, because of missed fees and failure to file required federal 990 tax forms.


To most of these points Freeman’s response was one of calm – the Settlement empire is not beginning to crumble. It is only a patch of rough water resulting from the same thing most are suffering from in these slow economic times.


“We, like others, are experiencing a period of difficulty financially,” he said.


Yet his responses to some issues contradicted statements by other agencies. He insisted the 990s were up-to-date and that Settlement’s non-profit status was fine. At the same time, he acknowledged the state and federal tax liens, saying many of them have already been paid off and that the rest would be settled once Settlement got a new loan to refinance the Women’s Y, building, a strategy Gillen said the RDA had not approved yet.


And on the $8.8 million in defaulted loans, Freeman claimed that for the majority of them, at least, Settlement was in fine shape. Even though the $7 million loan to refinance Freedom Square at Germantown Avenue and Wister Street, and the Melvin R. Burgess Building at Chelten and Wayne Avenues expired without payment, his organization was not in default, he insisted.


“It’s what they refer to as technical default, not default due to payment,” he said.  


More Settlement troubles include last month’s closure of the Germantown Settlement Mature Adult Center (MAC) when the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging pulled its funding due to financial concerns relating back to Settlement. According to Freeman this was a result of mounting financial pressures due to limitations in funding through the city. Because money was short, certain city requirements had to be delayed, he said.


“We were not able to provide audits in a timely fashion,” he said. “We now have a relatively complicated organization so to ask for financial audits is more than just a notion.”


The complexity of Settlement’s finances draws mostly from its real estate activities, Freeman said. Yet he indicated that a large portion of its new strategy in these tougher times will rely on that aspect of the organization in particular. It will be a reprioritizing according to the most viable projects for cash flow.


But complex accounting has gotten Settlement in trouble before. The June closing of Germantown Settlement Charter School following an October, 2008 order by the School Reform Commission, cited in part similar concerns over financial practices that included delayed audits.


But if authorities got wind of potential troubles in 2008, local rumors caught on far sooner, fueled by the visible decline of Settlement’s real estate holdings, the very thing Freeman now wants to prioritize.


The Women’s Y for example has sat vacant since 2006. Scarcely a window is unbroken in the historic structure, and the basement and rear entryways are left open to the wind - and whatever else might want to go in. 


Built to be abandoned?

In addition, a July 27 judgment against Settlement subsidiary GGHDC highlights how some feel the organization has taken to creating blight, rather than fighting it.


“I like to say, ‘they built abandoned homes,’” said a nearby neighbor of 200-206 East Penn Street.


The four nearly-complete town homes he referred to the corner of Penn and Wakefield Streets have sat boarded up, hidden by overgrown scrub brush, for several years. They were part of a Settlement plan to renovate or build 12 homes in that area of Lower Germantown. But GGHDC stopped making payments on the project loan in August of 2003, right around the time when work ground to a halt. A recent judgment awarded $987,529 to the lender, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the right to sell the nine unfinished properties at Sheriff’s Sale.


“The job kind of ran out of money and it was stopped,” said Don Matzkin, owner of Friday Architects, which designed the homes. “It’s really a shame… it was going to be a really terrific project. They were good modular units, good solid units.”


Matzkin made a trip to the area recently and was sad to see how the homes have sat unused. He said problems on the project started when GGHDC and the builder, Berrian Associates, could not work together.


To be fair, the first projects went well, said Matzkin. They completed three renovations on East Seymour Street and sold them to private owners in 2002. But a legal battle set in over finances, according to Matzkin. And in addition to the new abandoned homes on Penn Street, the fallout now includes two open foundations filled with heaps of trash at 5016 and 5018 Wakefield Street; an open, weed-filled cellar hole at 5212 Wakefield; two vacant lots next to that; and another vacant lot at 25 East Clapier Street.


Freeman said the project’s failure was the exception for Settlement, not the rule. And it came about because Berrian Associates went bankrupt and took all the project funding with it. Matzkin’s view was slightly different.


“Financial mismanagement is what it was… on both sides,” he said. “The contractor was not reined in and that’s GGHDC’s fault.”


Representatives from Berrian Associates could not be reached for comment.


In all, Freeman thought Settlement and its subsidiaries have done a good job of serving Germantown. And if there are any difficulties now, he said that each of them was being addressed through re-structuring the organization and selling off “non strategic” holdings.


But even the best of Settlement’s properties may have problems that hold the area back, some believe. A peek into the way GGHDC manages these properties might hint at why.


Burgess Building Problem

“I’ve had Germantown Settlement in court since I’ve been here,” said Gerald Young, owner of Temptations Gourmet Restaurant at the Burgess Building.

According to Young, he was supposed to move into the newly renovated Burgess Building at Wayne and Chelten in 2006 but the space was not ready on time. It sat empty for so long he finally agreed to do the work himself at a final cost of $175,000, he claimed. And he never got repaid for any of it, he said.


So now he refuses to pay any rent, except into an escrow account. And he hasn’t paid rent for the entire two-year period he has been in the space.


“This is the worst experience I have ever had,” he said.


At best, what the trouble all comes down to from Young’s perspective is gross mismanagement. 


Local developer Ken Weinstein might agree with him on that.


“I think Germantown Settlement and GGHDC are acting against the interests of the Germantown community at this point,” Weinstein said.


At about the time when Young was waiting to move into his new space at the Burgess Building, Weinstein was renovating six formerly-vacant properties close by on Chelten Avenue. And because the large storefronts at Burgess stayed empty for so long Weinstein had a terrible time convincing tenants to invest in the area, he said.


“What spurs economic development is seeing properties renovated and occupied,” he said. “And when a non-profit group doesn’t do that, then it deters private investment from coming in.”


Complicated Relationships

Because of his business, Weinstein says, he tries to stay attuned to many vacant and blighted properties Settlement holds. He has attempted to buy some of them without success, and his partners have too. And harkening back to SRC comments about confusing business relationships, Weinstein said a simple but effective way Settlement has slowed Germantown development comes from the difficulty of determining the true path of ownership for its properties.


One example of this is 5007 Germantown Avenue, a three story building at the corner of East Seymour Street that is owned by the Lower Germantown II Limited Partnership.


Emanuel Freeman is connected to this for-profit company and three others of similar names, Lower Germantown II Development Inc, the Lower Germantown Limited Partnership, and Lower Germantown Development Inc. They are subsidiary holding companies for tax credit funded developments, he said, but they haven’t been that active in about 15 years.


The registered address for each company is a long-vacant building at 48 East Penn Street. But Freeman said that, under the new Settlement strategy, that property would start to be transformed into a day care within 90 days.



Old, New Boards Join to Elect YMCA Officers

by PATRICK COBBS

Staff Writer


On Thursday August 6, the two former Boards of Managers for the YMCA of Germantown joined forces to elect new officers to the helm of the struggling organization. Of the 18 current Y board members, 10 came from what was formerly an insurgent group elected by members to sit along side the “old” board.


Now, as perhaps the strongest evidence that things are finally moving forward, most of the new officers come from the newer group.


“At this point I think it’s fair to say that any animosity between the standing board and the new board is a thing of the past,” said Jim Foster, publisher of the Germantown Chronicle and Mt Airy Independent and the new board president.


In addition to Foster, the new officers include, as vice president, Derek Green, an attorney and aide to City Councilwoman Marion Tasco; as second vice president, Peter Bentivegna, a retired architect and business owner; as treasurer, Floretta Tiggett, a financial services professional, as secretary, Constance Billé, an organizational development professional; and former board chair Marian Taylor as president emeritus.


A presence in Germantown since 1871, the Y’s public facilities have been closed since last summer following a flood caused by a burst pipe. In the year since, struggles over the Y have lead to staff layoffs, a lawsuit, extended insurance settlement negotiations and the loss of the national YMCA charter.


Getting the fitness portion of the building up and running again will still take time, according to Billé. There are extensive repairs to be done and lots of money needed to do it, but while settlement talks with the Y insurer New Hampshire Insurance Company continue, the board has been working to get the larger community involved and re-activate the membership.


“Fixing a building isn’t getting the people back,” Billé said.


One recent effort to reach out was a YMCA table, staffed by volunteers, at the People’s Festival in Vernon Park August 1. The intention was to survey local community members about what they would like to see in a new Y and whether they would be willing to volunteer to make it a reality.


“We got a tremendous response. In fact we ran out of forms,” Billé said. “A lot of people wrote, ‘Please open the Y’ and ‘we really want it. We really miss it.’”


But for all the good work, some former employees reported recently getting strong messages of condemnation by representatives of the Y because of their efforts to speak out about the events after the flood in the newspaper.


In response, several board members said in response that if such a message was ever sent it did not come from the YMCA board.


A $68,000 lawsuit against the Y from Proaction Carpet Cleaning and Restoration, the company that dried the Y out after the flood, is still on the list of troubles, but board members and legal counsel report that settlement talks with New Hampshire Insurance Company are going well enough.


“They have not yet admitted that they owe coverage other than for a relatively small amount of money for damages caused by a lighting strike,” said Jay Levin, counsel for the Y. But he expects to be in contact with the company this week about further settlement discussions, he said. 


While all the Y’s troubles my not be behind it, Billé, at least seems optimistic, and perhaps a little wistful, about the future.


“We open every meeting with a prayer,” she said. “Because that’s what this building needs, it needs a prayer.”


PWD Meets with Queen Lane Residents Over Flooding

by PATRICK COBBS

Staff Writer


The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) knows several things happen with every strong rainstorm. Water gushes along rooftops, through downspouts, across sidewalks and parking lots and over streets taking debris, pollutants and any number of other things with it into a system of underground pipes that is ultimately too small to handle all the volume.


The solution for the moment is to shunt all the excess flow into the rivers. It’s an act few people ever see and even fewer like because of its negative impact on water quality.


The 500 block of West Queen Lane also knows something about the problems of city runoff. Every time it storms most of that block floods, say residents, sometimes as high as the houses’ front doors.


  “I’ve been living here since the seventies and we get water in our basements,” said Lynda White. “We had claims in for years. This is not a new problem.”


But after the huge rainstorm on August 2 that dumped several inches across the Northwest in just a few hours, residents from up and down that block decided they’d had enough. It only added to the frustration for some to watch SEPTA’s ongoing $7.8 million renovation of the Queen Lane Station directly across the street, according to Block Captain Lisa Hopkins – all that public money spent so close by and still the flooding.  


It was this frustration that lead to an August 12 community meeting in the Queen Lane Train Station. Hopkins, White and many of their neighbors joined with several representatives from PWD, SEPTA, the 39th Police District and the 8th District City Council office to discuss ways not only to stop the flooding but to improve the neighborhood in general. It became the first ever neighborhood association meeting for that block of Queen Lane.


But the floods were always at the core that rainy night.


The Water Department did some initial investigations in the area and noted two problem spots: one in that section of Queen Lane and another only 40 or 50 feet south of Queen Lane on Wissahickon Avenue.


“Wissahickon is always closed in a rain event,” said Debra McCarty, deputy commissioner of operations for PWD.


Both spots appear to be the low points where at least two directions of water flow meet. On the 5200 block of Wissahickon Avenue, that flow appears to come from the road’s steep slopes in both directions. And on Queen Lane, which looks to be even lower, most of the flow seems to come from a point where Queen Lane, King/Penn Street and Schuyler Street all meet.


At that juncture there are eight street water catchments, four of which the PWD was certain allowed unimpeded water flow, according to recent tests. But the tests only revealed the flow through the catchments themselves, they did not determine whether water flowed off of the road freely into the catchments. And in an area where seven of the eight are curbside catchments and some have significantly reduced openings due to road surface paving (more than one being less than three inches in height, down from an original six-inch opening) that determination might be important.


To that end, McCarty said she recently asked the Streets Department to clear the excess pavement away from two of the curbside drains in the area. She added that the initial feeling was that an additional catch basin would solve the problem on Queen Lane, but that PWD was still working on a definitive solution.


“We did not have enough time to come with solutions,” McCarty said. “We’re not going away. We’re going to figure this out.”


Another rough determination that PWD had made before the meeting was that the pipe responsible for handling all this flow was indeed clear and unobstructed underground, meaning there might not be cause to dig up the street for a replacement. And while secondary evidence, described as something akin to bathtub rings, showed that the pipe does not fill to capacity during rain events, the recent storm might have shown otherwise. 


Queen Lane resident Dave McCartney has developed a routine for these heavy storms. He gets out his snow shovel and keeps trash clear from the one catchment clear that is a street level grate and not a curbside installation. While he was doing this in the last storm water gushed so forcefully out of the manhole in the center of the street that it spurted up into the sky, he said. This would tend to indicate that, despite PWD’s initial determinations, the underground pipe might have been filled to capacity that day.


“That’s very good information,” said PWD General Manager Steve Furtek.  “That’s the kind of information that can help us solve the problem.”


McCartney has vary rarely seen that kind of thing in the Queen Lane floods, but one certainty, he said, is that keeping the drain clear of trash when the water rushes down Schuyler Street seems to make all the difference in the world. 


“So surface debris could be a big issue,” said Furtek. “We’ve got to do a little more homework on our end.”


No Decision Yet in Dispute Over  Proposed Group Home

by PATRICK COBBS

Staff Writer


Anyone who liked underdog match-ups should have been in the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Gary DiVito Wednesday, August 12 in the matter of Barnes Et al vs. Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA).


The hearing over a proposed home for chronically homeless men at 319 East Price Street was an appeal on the part of the Price Street Neighbors Association (PSNA) to an earlier ZBA decision granting a zoning variance that would have let the project go ahead. It was also an appeal to a request by the project developers, the non-profit Community Ventures, to require PSNA to take out a bond that it would pay to Community Ventures if it lost project funding due to appeal delays.


What made it interesting was that Price Street Neighbors member Peter Wirs, who is not an attorney, faced off against one of Philadelphia’s top zoning lawyers, Carl Primavera.


“The first thing I want to hear is testimony as to why you should not have to post a bond,” said Judge DiVito.


But Wirs did not object to the bond. Instead he offered to call Price Street Neighbors co-founder Angel Saysay to the stand for testimony on the zoning question.


“Are you an attorney?” asked DiVito.


“No,” said Wirs.


“Now you have a problem,” DiVito said. “If you’re not an attorney, you can’t present evidence.”


“This is the problem, your honor,” said Primavera. “To my belief they’re kind of hiding behind this prose status.”


Primavera accused the Price Street Neighbors of trying to benefit from not retaining an attorney by securing extra leniency on court rules, such as more time for filings. In the end, Wirs never did present his witness.


“Let them put some skin in the game,” Primavera said of the bond question. Because without it the organization has been able to hold up the construction project for comparatively little effort, he said.


Wirs wasn’t the only one fighting an uphill battle in this story. The proposed 12-unit apartment building, to be called My Place Germantown, is meant to provide subsidized permanent housing for “older” chronically homeless men. It is a population segment that tends to have a very tough time of things, according to founder Mary Ellen Graham.


The facility would provide 12 efficiency units intended for men between 45 and 55 who have a long history of homelessness. This means they probably will also have at least one other severe “co-occurring” issue, like depression or a history of substance abuse.


Funding for the project comes from the Office of Supportive Housing, which is worried about losing federal HUD money it wants to route to the project from an aging 2004 allocation. In addition to time pressure, the decision to fund My Place Germantown comes from a recent city and federal push toward a model of homelessness prevention called Housing First.


Critics of this model claim it does not provide enough support care for people it houses. Indeed My Place Germantown would not provide support care beyond regular visits to a social worker. But proponents say getting a roof over people’s heads is the first, biggest step toward overall health. For other supportive pieces the men can utilize the many social services centered in the area.


Which brings up another underdog story – the old Germantown refrain of “group home” and social service “saturation” and its impact on residents’ quality of life. On quick count that impact to Price Street resident Angel Saysay includes the 100-pluss Bed homeless men’s facility at the Germantown YMCA three blocks away, the 50-bed homeless men’s facility at Whosoever Gospel Mission one block away, a feeding program one block away, and the new Northwest Human Services mental health treatment program, the Covenant House Under 21 Crisis Center both two blocks away, and the Gaudenzia drug and alcohol treatment center three blocks away. 


From Price Street Neighbors’ position it’s a story of unwitting residents being force-fed these programs by big, powerful and well-organized interest groups. And certainly the city of Philadelphia (funder), the Philadelphia Archdiocese (building owner), and even St. Vincent de Paul parrish on Price Street where My Place Germantown gets its roots, and Community Ventures, too, could each be classified by at least one of those traits.


But Judge DiVito’s argument seemed to be that Price Street Neighbors ought to be able to ascend to that status as well.


“I find it hard to believe that you can’t find the resources to hire an attorney or find one to represent you pro-bono,” he told the group.


As to the merits of whether the project should be granted a multi-family variance in the single-family zoning area, Primavera said he thought the proposal was in line with the original intent of the building.


“This building was built as a [convent]. It never was a single-family dwelling,” he said.


On the same question, Wirs cited case law to make the argument that an original piece of evidence presented to the ZBA in the form of a letter from Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller describing no significant neighborhood opposition to the project, should be disregarded. According to him, a letter from a councilperson cannot be seen as evidence.


DiVito did not make his decision in court that day. As he was leaving his chambers later he reported that he was still deliberating.


Happy Hollow Soup Kitchen

Make it Happen Now and Concerned Neighbors of Greater Germantown, Inc. announce the grand reopening of Happy Hollow Soup Kitchen at Wayne Avenue and Logan Street on September 1.


Meals will be served on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Volunteers are needed as well as donations such as pots, pans and utensils. For more information contact Happy Hollow at 215- 685-2195, Mary Key at 267-593-6661, or Marlene Pryor at 215- 849-6932.


Back to School at Brand New Life

Join the Brand New Life Christian Center for its annual Back To School Jam and Community Health Fair Saturday, August 22,  10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  at Germantown Avenue and Washington Lane. There will be free blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar screenings and health risk assessments. Enjoy a day of food, games, free book bags, free school supplies, face painting and much more. For more information call 215-844-0790.


Community Day at High Street

The annual Community Day of High Street Church of God, 222 East High Street, wiil be held on Saturday August 22, noon - 6 p.m.. There will be live entertainment, free food, face painting, games, health information, free clothes giveaway, moon bounce, and lots of fun for the whole family. The entire community is invited to attend. Bring your neighbor and friends, join us in fun and fellowship. For more information call the church at 215-438-1682.


SEPTA Discusses Rail Issues

Stephen Kinsey, chief of staff to State Representative John Myers of the 201st Legislative District, met with community leaders at two locations in Germantown and SEPTA’s Government Relations officer, Rochelle Culbreath, to discuss issues pertaining to SEPTA’s Regional Rail infrastructure.


The first site, near Sherman Street on the R8 line, is having the retaining wall of the SEPTA track repaired. According to the Sherman Street block captain, Marvin Dyson, “criminal activity has increased tremendously, there is a lack of streetlights located within the vicinity of the construction site, especially near a lot under the Regional Rail bridge,” where Dyson has witnessed acts of prostitution. Further, along the Regional Rail tracks, there is litter that has accumulated over the last several years and weeds that extend from the rail line into people’s backyards.


The second site is the Washington Lane Regional Rail station, (R-7).  Reverend Chester Williams, a community leader from the Chew Avenue area, shared the need for the revamping of the station for wheelchair accessibility and the need to remove a section of the fencing dividing the tracks, for easier travel from the station to the parking area. He contends that with this change, the elderly will be less at risk of being attacked while exiting the parking lot.


Culbreath reported she will share these issues to the SEPTA board and will follow up with Rep. Myers and Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller’s office and the communities involved.


Speakers Advocate Major Shifts in City Tax Policies

by PATRICK COBBS

Staff Writer


The Mayor’s Task Force on Tax Policy and Economic Competitiveness held its final public meeting at City Hall August 13, with a deadline of making official recommendations on changes to the city’s tax policy by mid-September. It was notable that at an event meant to collect input from the public – in three-minute spurts – most of the first hour was taken up by comments from City Council members Bill Green (D., at- large) and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (D., 7th).


“I will be significantly longer than three minutes,” Green warned the Task Force.


And he was, in his presentation of a plan for fixing the city that stretched far beyond taxes.


“Even if taxes were zeroed out the city wouldn’t grow as it needs to,” he claimed.


According to the Task Force’s numbers, Philadelphia has lost 500,000 residents since 1970 and shed 200,000 private sector jobs in the same time. And based on its preliminary findings, both the level of taxation and the number of taxes are simply too high for Philadelphia to remain economically competitive in the region. So Mayor Michael Nutter assembled the Task Force in March to help figure out how to make the city more attractive to businesses and high and middle-income residents.


For Green and Quiñones-Sánchez, one shared desire beyond taxes was to totally revamp the city’s schools as a means of providing a more qualified local workforce. According to Quiñones-Sánchez, graduates of Philadelphia public schools are 44 percent less likely to attain a bachelor’s degree than students from the rest of the state. 


From “mobile” to “fixed”?

The two Council members also joined in support for the Task Force recommendation of shifting the majority of Philadelphia’s taxation from assets that are “mobile” like people and businesses, to assets that are “fixed” like land and property.


An assumption that seemed to form the core of the Task Force’s preliminary findings was that some “mobile” taxes like the Business Privilege and wage taxes are just too high, and  that other “fixed” revenue streams, like property taxes are simply not fair.


As an example, just 27 percent of assessed real estate taxes in 2008 came from commercial properties, while 53.6 percent came from single-family residential properties, according to the Task Force. The group appears to feel that reducing wage and Business Privilege taxes, while increasing the commercial tax burden and equalizing residential assessments, is an important recipe for achieving economic competitiveness.


But Quiñones-Sánchez wanted the Task Force to be careful about how it recommended shifting taxes to supposedly immobile property.


“While a house can’t move, the owner who pays the taxes can,” she said. “Simply shifting will not provide an incentive to stay.”


Land value taxation

Her preference was a land value taxation system, something representatives from the Henry George Foundation also recommended heartily at the meeting. It based this opinion partially on the success of 10-year tax abatement programs in encouraging new development.


“We believe in applying a universal permanent tax abatement automatically,” said Joshua Vincent, executive director of the Henry George Foundation in a separate interview.


The current property tax system applies an equal tax rate to land and buildings, so that a vacant lot next door to a lot of the same size with a house on it will pay roughly half as much in taxes. According to Vincent this creates a disincentive to build, or significantly improve on property.


If the city shifted all of its property taxes to the land and not the “improvements” on the land, Vincent thinks there would be a strong incentive to build on vacant lots because the tax liability would not increase with a new building, while the potential for income through rental, sales or business uses would. And in a city where the average age of the housing stock is pushing 100 years, it would also create an incentive to maintain properties at a higher level, Vincent said.  


“Our program doesn’t reward just future development,” he said. “It rewards development that occurred in the past. So in that sense it tries to preserve existing neighborhoods.”


Vincent presented two proposals to the Task Force – one, a Land Value Tax (LVT) as described above, and the other a flat-rate permanent cash value tax exemption for all buildings on taxable property. The second was a land weighted tax, with taxes on improvements collected only if the building’s assessed value is greater than the tax exemption amount.


Shifting the burden?

In both cases, using the current scheme for assessing the market value for different sections of the city, the Henry George studies showed a major reduction in the tax burden on residential property owners, with large commercial property owners, owners of vacant land and residents in high-end residential sections making up for the difference.


According to Vincent’s figures, the LVT shift would save East Mount Airy residents an average of $137 per year and East Germantown residents an average $32. And it would cost Germantown residents about $2 and West Mt. Airy residents about $20 per year, while in Chestnut Hill the tax bill would jump about $428 on average.


For the second proposal (called Assessed Exemption for Improvements or AXI) the results would be even more dramatic: an average savings of $473 per year for East Germantown, $464 per year for Germantown and $229 for East Mt. Airy, and an average tax increase of $285 in West Mt. Airy and $1,528 in Chestnut Hill.


While the Task Force seemed quite interested in the LVT and AXI proposal, many at the meeting felt that other priorities should trump any tax changes.


First Deputy City Controller Harvey Rice estimated that the city was owed a total of $1.2 billion in back taxes and it should collect those before making any changes.


“We should first focus on collecting as much of our outstanding taxes as possible,” he said.


Two proposals contained in the Task Force’s preliminary recommendations that spoke to Rice’s point included reducing the tax delinquency penalty, which at 12 percent currently discourages back payment, according to the Task Force, and creating a Tax Ombudsman to work with troubled taxpayers.


Speaking about another side of the economic picture, several representatives from some of the city’s largest development firms weighed in with a unified message: economic competitiveness in Philadelphia will be impossible, they said, until significant controls can be placed on overall building costs in the city.


High construction costs

Because of the high cost of construction (which some suggested is related to union rules, the zoning process, the building code, and dealing with the Board of Revision of Taxes), very few developers build anything in Philadelphia if it is not publically subsidized. This causes what Sam Sherman, president of the Philadelphia Builders Industry Association, called a “bifurcated housing market that essentially serves the very poor or the wealthy.”


John Westrum, chief executive officer of Westrum Development Company agreed.


“The city of Philadelphia is the highest cost of construction of anywhere that we do work,” he said, estimating it was 50 percent more expensive than building in the suburbs. 


Yet, according to Westrum, there is a strong demand for new middle-income homes in the $200,000 to $600,000 range if developers can afford to build them. His company’s 78-home Spring Lane Meadows development in Upper Roxborough sold out in just 3 months, he said. But because of the “gigantic gap” in Philadelphia construction costs, he said, “we really haven’t made any money.”


Other suggestions that came up at the meeting included possibly asking large non-profits that own large amounts of land to pay some taxes. And Cathy Scott, president of AFSME District Council 47 did not think it was appropriate for the city to consider reducing any taxes until it fist paid back a $235 million deferred payment to city workers’ pension funds. She called it a “loan” that the city had to take precisely because it did not have enough in tax revenue to begin with. 


Independent Filmmakers Find a Venue at Flickering Light


Sara Zia Ebrahimi outside the Sedgwick Center, where the Flickering Light films are shown.


By AARON MOSELLE

Correspondent


Ask Sara Zia Ebrahimi to tag the toughest obstacle facing independent filmmakers, and you’ll get a simple, but unexpected answer: getting an audience to see your work.


“Really your only opportunity for anyone to ever see your film is at a film festival,” she says. “It’s very discouraging.”


As a response she launched The Flickering Light – a monthly independent film series – at the Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Avenue, in March. Ebrahimi, 32, had always wanted to develop an alternative outlet for independent film. She was particularly interested in creating a place where filmmakers, local and global, stood a better chance of having their submissions screened before moviegoers from both inside and outside festival circles.


But she also wanted to extend the opportunity to filmmakers year-round, and for that reason, never entertained the idea of adding to the city’s list of film festivals with one of her own. The question was where to set up shop.


“It was important that I settle on a neighborhood and build a relationship there,” says Ebrahimi, who was a board member of both The Philadelphia Independent Film and Video Association (PIFVA) and The Black Lily Women’s Film & Music Project.


After living all over Philadelphia for the previous nine years, Ebrahimi moved to Mt. Airy in 2007. She admits the affordability was what first caught her attention.


But really, she says, it was Mt. Airy’s overall character – economic and racial diversity coupled with a strong sense of community – which made the choice an easy one. The combination also gave her confidence that an independent film series could not only survive, but flourish.


For content, Ebrahimi sends out calls for submissions with a chosen theme, to every corner of the Internet. This includes industry outlets like Hi-Beam and Creative Cow, but also social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and any relevant listserv.


Which films are ultimately selected is decided using one of two approaches.


For certain screenings, Ebrahimi will simply pick on her own. For others, she’ll ask the filmmaker she’d like to co-curate the series that month to choose.


“The curating I sort of think about it like DJ-ing music, in the sense that you’re picking certain songs, or in this case films, putting them together, creating a mood for it, and a particular space to bring people together, and giving it a context,” says Ebrahimi.


The process so far has yielded an eclectic mix of titles featuring mostly short-length films. “East Looks West Looks East,” the Flickering Light’s inaugural screening, tackled the Iranian Diaspora (of which Ebrahimi is a part). The films that composed “The Animal in Me” loosely interpreted the animal kingdom while “My Father, The Radical” discussed the activist fathers of two filmmakers.


Ebrahimi also screened a collection of shorts that were part of New York’s LGBT Experimental Film Festival, “MIX.”


The response from filmmakers, says Ebrahimi, has been solid. High-quality feature-length and short films have come not only from local off-the-grid filmmakers, but also from filmmakers from all across the country and beyond. She has received submissions from France, Germany, Canada, England and Iran.


The response from the community to Ebrahimi’s local, affordable monthly screenings – always $5 per ticket – has followed suit. Audience attendance has, on average, hovered around 75, with a roughly even split between those coming from Mt. Airy and from elsewhere in the city.


Moving forward, Ebrahimi looks to diversify programming and expand the screening series. Starting in September, The Flickering Light will hold weekly screenings, but remain a Saturday event.  


“White Lies, Black Sheep”, a feature-length narrative by James Spooner (“Afro Punk”) is slated for August 22 at 7 p.m.


“Weighty Propositions: Films About Fatness, Bodies and Food” on September 12 will kick off the series format shift. Philadelphia-based Exhumed Films will follow and host an evening of horror on September 19.


Within the next five years, Ebrahimi -who works full-time as the development manager at Bread & Roses Community Fund - hopes to create a part-time staff position to help handle programming and publicity.


She ultimately aims to come full-circle and parlay the series into a “full-fledged” sustainable business with a non-profit arm to provide grant money for local independent film projects.


“It’s the idea that you’re supporting independent filmmakers in two ways,” says Ebrahimi. “First you’re offering a venue for them to screen their work, you’re generating revenue from that, and then you’re paying it back out into the filmmaking community.”


For more information about The Flickering Flight Film Series, visit www.flickeringfilms.com .


FOW to Hold Annual Ice Cream Social


The Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) invites its neighbors to the Third Annual Ice Cream Social on Wednesday, September 2, on the lawn outside their offices at 8708 Germantown Avenue. This event features free ice cream, activities for the whole family, and the chance to meet with FOW’s staff and volunteers. Members of the Friends of the Wissahickon are encouraged to wear their FOW t-shirts and hats.


Founded in 1924, the Friends of the Wissahickon is a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining Wissahickon Valley Park. FOW restores historical structures throughout the park, eliminates invasive plant species, partners with multiple local organizations to monitor watershed management issues, and is working on a multi-year plan to restore trails throughout the park system.


Their work, undertaken in partnership with the Fairmount Park Commission, protects the Wissahickon watershed and preserves the natural and historical features of this urban wilderness.


The Ice Cream Social will run from 3-6 p.m. For more information about FOW and its family memberships, visit www.fow.org or call 215-247-0417.


$170,000 Grant to Conservation Corps

By KATJA GOTTLEIB-STIER

Editorial Staff Intern


At 10:30 in the morning on August 4 a group of mud-splattered individuals gathered at Valley Green to celebrate the launch of the Conservation Leadership Corps program to the Philadelphia region. Leading the ceremony was Valerie Bailey, the executive vice president of the Student Conservation Association (SCA). With  Bailey were Katherine Gajewski, Tony Teneglia and Maura McCarthy, president of the Friends of the Wissahickon. They were celebrated the work of the fifty Philadelphia high school students who worked to complete a seven-week-long SCA conservation program in the Wissahickon valley, where they restored trails and removed invasive plants, litter and graffiti.


Katherine Gajewski, an SCA alumna, is the City of Philadelphia’s Director of Sustainability, recently appointed by Mayor Nutter. She spoke briefly, congratulating the students who had worked so hard for the local environment and detailing how she hoped to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the U.S.


Representing Walmart was Tony Teneglia who presented SCA with a check that was large not only in size but also in amount - $170,000 dollars.


While exhausted, dirty and moist, the group beamed in their pale blue t-shirts, proud of their summer’s work.


Reward Increases in Murder of Housing Authority Employee

The Philadelphia Housing Authority, Wachovia Bank, Carpenters Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Hunter Roberts Construction Company and Citizens Crime Commission have announced a substantial increase in the reward offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the murder of PHA employee Rodney Barnes. The reward has jumped from $10,000 to $53,000.


Barnes, 46, was shot in the back of the head Saturday afternoon, July 25, in the 2300 block of Norris Street while working on a PHA weatherization and maintenance crew at Raymond Rosen Manor in North Philadelphia. He died on August 5. Barnes, a married father of four, was also a minister at the Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ.


PHA Executive Carl Greene hopes the increased reward will also provide increased incentive for someone with information to contact the Citizens Crime Commission.


“To date, there has been no response to either the reward for information or to the family’s call for conscience. At the same time, there has been an outpouring of generosity among our corporate and labor partners. As a result, we are able to announce today that the reward fund for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case has grown to $53,000. We are hopeful that someone in the Rosen community who saw the crime occur and will come forward,” Greene said.


John Dougherty, business manager for IBEW Local 98, said that his union has often played a role in similar reward funds for members of the Philadelphia Police Department, but that it is a shocking development to have this type of violent crime touch the building trades community.


“Police officers and firefighters go to work each day knowing they may be at risk, but to have this type of crime touch the construction industry is shocking. We want to send the message that we must be able to do our work in safety and that the person who committed this murder must be taken off the streets,” Dougherty said.


Dan Dirscherl, senior vice president for Hunter-Roberts Construction Group, said his company felt compelled to contribute to the reward fund.


“We have 90 people working in the field on PHA projects right now. We want to send a clear message to them that we want the person who committed this crime found and removed from the street,” Dirscherl said.


Rodney Barnes was a member of the Carpenters Union since 1998 and had begun work as a member of PHA’s Maintenance WAVE (Weatherization And Value Enhancement) crew this spring.


Anyone with any information about the shooting is encouraged to call 215-546-8477. Callers’ identities will be kept confidential.


‘Community in a Building’ at Yorkhouse

“Two completely different pieces of property on the same site,” is how Gingie Pope, director of Yorkhouse Apartments, describes the two buildings at 5325 Old York Road. One is for regular apartment rental; the other, which she manages,  is a 197-unit residence for ages 55 and up.


The 197-unit building was Jewish Federation housing for many years, says Pope. Now, she says, it’s a “community in a building designed around senior housing.”


Pope is careful not to call it an assisted living facility though it has some aspects of that, including a doctor’s office and a drugstore in the building, arrangements for housekeeping help, medication management assistance, plus a meal plan that residents can order from a la carte. Also, the building has modifications to assist mobility and safety, including guardrails and hallway handrails, as well as “cut tubs” – bathtubs with a cut taken out of the side – for easier use in some apartments.


But, she says, Yorkhouse is basically designed for seniors who are independent . “Seniors don’t want to ‘accept’ things,” she says. “They can  do that [live independently] here.” The facility is located close to the Olney and Logan subway stops, with a SEPTA bus stop on the corner.


A recent events calendar from Yorkhouse  shows a wide list of  activities each week, including arts and crafts, line dancing, church services, a bus trip to a local mall, T’ai Chi classes,  fitness workouts, games, movies, and much more.  Activities are 


held regularly, Pope says,  such as trips to Atlantic City and Phillies games, as well as a heath fair.


In the current economic climate, Pope says, some families which might otherwise choose a location like Yorkhouse for its senior members may think twice. They might decide, she says, that “It’s cheaper to keep mom with them. It’s a question now where it might not have been otherwise.” But, she says, the occupancy rate is high at Yorkhouse and its rates are reasonable, starting at $865 per month for a studio apartment and ranging to $1450 for a one-bedroom. “You don’t have to write a whopping check up front,” she adds. 


For more information about Yorkhouse call 215-329-3595 or visit www.theyorkhouse.com.


‘Enterprising Women’ Winners Announced


Winners included (left to right): Meeka Johnson and Tenee Nelson, I Luv Hoodies; Lori Tharps, ?RU; Stephanie Stevens, Integrity Cleaning and Janitorial Services; Leslie Spady, Kids Fundamental Bakehouse; Zana Billue, Zana Cakes; Sandra Jones, Big Daddy’s BBQ; Glynis Tart, Verden Interior Design Studio, LLC; Bernadine Abad, Intellectual Pursuite, Inc. Not pictured: Karen Colquitt-Hall, CAMOR; Tesia Barone, ?RU.


By KATJA GOTTLEIB-STIER

Editorial Staff Intern


Eleven women representing nine businesses were announced as the 2009 winners of the Enterprising Women Business Plan Competition held annually by the Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise, 7500 Germantown Avenue. Their nine businesses will not only share a joint prize of ten thousand dollars but also contacts and credibility.


Run by Melissa Stewart, this contest is in its eight year. Executive Director Pamela Rich-Wheeler created this competition which is “aimed at providing women with the tools they need to launch, improve and grow their businesses.”


The contest is split into the three categories of Service, Retail and Restaurant. This year’s first place winners, who will take home three thousand dollars, are Meeka Johnson and Tenee Nelson in the retail category for I Luv Hoodies, Zana Billue in the restaurant category for Zana Cakes, and Glynis Tart in the service category for Verden Interior Design Studio.


A year and a half ago Glynis Tart was taking classes at a business center in Center City. When she handed in a completed business plan, a teacher recommended that she enter the contest. “I took a shot and when the competition was around in January I just submitted an application.”


The fifty-seven women who entered the competition were narrowed down to semi-finalists who presented an executive summary of their plan. Finalists were chosen after having presented a total business plan in front of four or five judges. This didn’t faze Tart at all, She said, “I’m a people person, more or less. I don’t mind getting in front of groups.”


About landing the first prize, Tart is most excited by the fact that it will “put me on a higher level as far as credibility [goes].”


According to Stewart the contest is important as “an avenue that helps women to create an active business plan. With the economy the way that it is people are finding it hard to create capital and networking opportunities.”


As far as the economic climate goes Tart knows “it takes guts, creativity, innovation and on a small budget, a lot of faith in yourself…even when other people may not.”


For more information about the Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise, call 215-247-2473 or visit www.thebizctr.com.


Author of Young Adult Novels at Bookstore

At the Big Blue Marble Bookstore on Friday, August 28 at 7:15 p.m., Poetry Aloud and Alive presents Allison Whittenberg.


Author, playwright, and poet Allison Whittenberg has published several young adult novels: Sweet Thang (Random House/Delacorte Press 2006); Life Is Fine (Random House/Delacorte Press 2007); and Hollywood and Maine (Random House 2008). Her fourth book, Tutored, is forthcoming. She has written and produced five plays that have been presented at Red Eye Theatre, Festival of ‘Wrights, Spruce Hill Theatre, and Hedgerow Theatre.


A former Drexel University professor, Allison is a professed poet at heart. Her poetry has appeared in many literary magazines and journals. She received the John Steinbeck Award for aspiring writers and has been proving herself worthy of the accolade ever since.


Allison is a world traveler, whose globe-trotting has been tempered somewhat by her current project, her 15-month-old son Marlowe. Allison says Marlowe is “wise beyond his year”; a lover of music, dance, literature, and travel, he seems ideally suited to be Allison’s son. When asked if the pressures of being the child of such an illustrious and accomplished mother are adequately compensated by the affectionate insightful enlightenment she provides, Marlowe replied succinctly, “Yeah!”


Join us for a stimulating, fascinating, fun evening. Our open-ears-open-minds-open-mic will follow, hosted by Mike Cohen. Those who attend will be welcome to share a few minutes of their own poetry, short subjects, or random thoughts.


The Big Blue Marble Bookstore is located at 551 Carpenter Lane.


For more information call the store at 215-844-1870.


Collage Owner Follows Her Dream

By KATJA GOTTLEIB-STIER

Editorial Staff Intern


Deanne Hale woke up one morning towards the end of 2007, she says, and “the spirit told me ‘I need to get a shop.’ ” Hale became a licensed cosmetologist in 1982 and since then has worked in many salons from Atlanta to Philadelphia. She managed and styled in a Philadelphia salon until deciding to cut hair from home which she did for ten years until opening her own salon, the Collage Hair Studio, in January 2008.


Hale has been involved with cosmetology her entire life, having grown up constantly making-over her five sisters. It has “always been a passion of mine” she states vehemently as she expertly curls the back of a clients head. “I wanted something that I would always go to work and want to do ’cause so many people hated their jobs.” 


Not only does Hale love her job every day but she is pleased that she runs an “establishment that takes pride in hair care” and that “really cares about women and the health and beauty of their hair.” She attends hair shows constantly to learn more about new techniques and breakthroughs in the world of cosmetology. Next month she will be attending a Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta.


In today’s rocky economic climate it can be tough to start a successful small business but Hale has a plan for that. “It’s all about marketing and knowing how to [deal with problems]” she states confidently. She has “adjusted payments accordingly,” she says, and runs specials every month. A few weeks ago she had a client appreciation day where she called every client individually and invited them to a day of food, music and discounted services. “I had people selling products, jewelry. I worked the entire day.” A big smile spreads across Hale’s face, and that doesn’t seem like a bad thing at all.


The Collage Hair Studio is located at 6813 Germantown Avenue. For more information visit www.collagehairstudio.com or call 215-438-1040.


Maxwell Mansion to Celebrate 150th Year

On Saturday, September 12, the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion will host Thank You, Ebenezer: A Celebration of 150 Years, at the private residence of Doris Bernheim in Mt. Airy.  This soiree features a visit from Queen Victoria, musical entertainment and a silent auction. Hors d’oeuvres and wine are on the menu. 


The highlight of the evening will be a tribute to Henry J. Magaziner, EFAIA, founding father of the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion and chairman of the Mansion’s Board from 1965 to 1968.  Had it not been for the efforts of Magaziner, this lovely Victorian “villa” would have fallen to the wrecking ball and Philadelphia’s only authentically-restored Victorian house museum and garden would not exist.


“Henry Magaziner has been blessed with a lifetime of achievement; the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion has been blessed with Henry Magaziner”, says Mark Frazier Lloyd, director, University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania. 


Funds raised by the event will support Maxwell Mansion educational programs and restoration work. 


In 1859 Ebenezer Maxwell built a wonderful stone Gothic Revival “country villa” for his wife, Anna, and their six children; 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the Mansion. The Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is at 200 West Tulpehocken Street in the Tulpehocken Station Historic District, one of America’s first railroad suburbs. 


For more information call 215-438-1861 or visit www.ebenezermaxwellmansion.org.


Obituary: John A. “Jack” Glenn, 64

John A. “Jack” Glenn, 64, of Philadelphia died Thursday, August 13 in Devon Manor from cancer. He was the son of Catherine ‘Mimi’ (Kay Wadosky) and the late William Glenn.


Mr. Glenn, formerly of Germantown, was born July 29, 1945, attended Roxborough High School and attended Lasalle University. He worked in the food service industry. He was a caterer and also worked as a waiter for Bookbinders, and as a cook in the rectory of St. Matthias Church, Bala Cynwyd. He was an Army veteran of the Vietnam War.


In addition to his mother, he is survived by his sister Joanne (formerly Peruto) and her husband Sam Lasorda, of Phoenixville, PA; and his nephew A. Charles (Chas) Peruto, III and his wife Puja (Suneja), of Philadelphia.


The family will receive relatives and friends Saturday, August 22, 9 - 9:50 a.m. at St. Matthias Church, 128 Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bala Cynwyd. His memorial mass will follow at 10 a.m. Burial will be private. For information visit www.caramenicofuneralhome.com.


Family Planning for Low Income Women

Covenant House, Inc. (CHI) also known as Covenant House Health Services (CHHS) has been serving Germantown and Northwest Philadelphia since 1964.  As a primary care safety-net provider, CHI offers comprehensive medical services with an emphasis on preventive health screening and health education.  Our main facility is located at 251 East Bringhurst Street in Germantown.  We are pleased to announce, however, the opening in June of this year of our second facility, the Mt. Pleasant Medical Center, located at 8125 Stenton Avenue.


Now in our fifth decade of continuous service delivery, CHI is one of Philadelphia’s oldest primary care providers committed to serving the uninsured, under insured and low income person with regard to ability to pay for needed care.  We currently accept all locally offered insurance plans.


We want to highlight an important new family planning program for low-income women.  The SelectPlan for Women program provides free family planning services to low-income women between the ages of 18 and 44 years.  To be eligible to receive these services a woman must have an income at or below 185 percent of Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, be a U.S. citizen (or have satisfactory immigration status), reside in Pennsylvania, and not be pregnant or sterilized.  Some of the services covered under SelectPlan for Women include:

  1. All forms of birth control (pills, condoms, diaphragms, etc.)

  2. Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

  3. Emergency contraceptives

  4. Check-ups and pap smears


For those eligible, these services are free-of-charge -  no co-payments or other fees.


You can apply for SelectPlan online by visiting www.dpw.state.pa.us or by visiting a local County Assistance Office.  However, as a community partner with the PA Department of Public Welfare, Covenant House assists its patients in applying for SelectPlan.


Do not neglect your health because finances are tight right now.  Call the appointment line at 215 844-0181 and schedule your appointment today.  CHHS is here to serve the community.


Register Now for Philadelphia Distance Run

The only American to break one hour in the half marathon, U.S. Olympian Ryan Hall will toe the start line at the 32nd Annual ING Philadelphia Distance Run on Sunday, September 20.


 “I’m looking forward to racing my first ING Philadelphia Distance Run this September. There have been some great U.S. performances at the race over the years and I’m hoping to bring a performance that will add my name to the ranks,” said Hall.


Hall set the U.S. half-marathon record and earned a national title on January 14, 2007, when he won the men’s U.S. Half Marathon National Championship in 59 minutes 43 seconds. He became the first and only American to break the one-hour barrier at the distance. His time bettered the previous U.S. record by Mark Curp that had stood for 21 years. Four of the top five all-time half marathon performances by U.S. men, including Curp’s record-setting performance in 1985, were run in Philadelphia.


Hall, 26, won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in New York and went on to finish 10th in the Beijing Olympics.  Most recently, he finished third in the 2009 Boston Marathon, becoming the first American to reach the men’s podium since 1985.


In 2005, American Deena Kastor made history in Philadelphia when she shattered Joan Benoit’s long-standing American record by 41 seconds in a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes and 53 seconds. Four of the top five fastest U.S. women’s half marathon times have taken place at the annual Philadelphia event.


The ING Philadelphia Distance Run has been one of the most popular and respected half marathons in the country for over thirty years.  The 13.1 mile scenic course showcases many of the city’s celebrated and historic sites. The race will begin at 7:45 am at Eakins Oval, on the Ben Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum.  From the start line, runners head towards Center City on the legendary Benjamin Franklin Parkway lined with fountains, international flags and a vast array of public art. Runners will then pass City Hall and Independence Hall. After heading back up Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the course rolls into the serene and picturesque Fairmount Park along the Schuylkill River before finishing back at Eakins Oval.


Race weekend begins Thursday, September 17, when hundreds of future marathoners are set to kickoff the ING Run for Something Better training program at Franklin Field. ING Run For Something Better helps kids learn that physical activity is fun, while fostering their desire to exercise before obesity even begins. The kickoff event begins at 11 a.m.


The event’s free two-day Health & Fitness Expo begins Friday, September 18, at Philadelphia Convention Center. The expo, which is open to the public, is where all participants pick up their bib number, t-shirt and race packet. The event features interactive displays and exhibits with samples, the latest in running apparel and a full schedule of clinics held in the ING lounge, where expo attendees will have the opportunity to talk informally with running celebrities and fitness experts. To register for the race or for more information about the ING Philadelphia Distance Run, visit http://philadelphia.competitor.com or call 800-311-1255.


Go ‘Out on a Limb’ at Morris Arboretum

An Arboretum-wide exhibit called Tree Adventure featuring the dramatic Out on a Limb structure opened in July, 2009 at the Morris Arboretum, 100 Northwestern Avenue in Chestnut Hill. The central theme of the exhibit explores the relationship between plants and people with its central message: we need trees, and trees need us.


Armed with a Passport to Adventure, visitors travel the expanse of the Arboretum’s 92-acre garden to learn (experientially) the critical role trees play in our environment while having fun engaging with trees.  Designed by Metcalfe Architecture and Design, the exhibit will be a fully accessible, fascinating learning experience for both children and adults.


The iconic centerpiece of the Morris Arboretum’s Tree Adventure exhibit is Out on a Limb, a striking new 450-foot long walkway that soars 50 feet above the ground, and gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the forest. From Out on a Limb, visitors will cross a Suspension Bridge to a giant Bird’s Nest (where they can sit on huge eggs), scamper onto the Squirrel Scramble’s rope-netting skirting two towering trees, head to the top of the Wissahickon Vista platform for sweeping views, or just wander along the Canopy Walk rising high above the forest floor.


Out on a Limb is only one element of the new Tree Adventure exhibit. Other stations that will illustrate interactive and playful learning include:


The Dawn Redwood Grove, to meet living fossils. Here, visitors will learn about plant explorers and discover the story behind the magnificent dawn redwood “living fossils,” as well as how to measure the height of trees. Once common across North America, these trees were thought to have become extinct nearly two million years ago. Today, they exist because of the efforts of early plant explorers. This grove includes some of the oldest and largest dawn redwoods in the country. Visitors will discover for themselves just how large they’ve grown.


Oak Allée, to learn about trees’ root systems. Roots will be painted on the pavement to show how far out they can go. Visitors will be directed to pace off the roots and calculate their distance, and learn how roots work, how they grow, and what they do for trees.


Springhouse, to compare nature’s temperatures. The Springhouse was the best means of refrigeration in pre-Victorian and Colonial times. Though now obsolete, it remains a symbol of early America and might be thought of as the “coolest” place in the Arboretum. Just how cool is it? features a interactive exercise where visitors analyze temperature changes using thermometers placed in the shade, in the sun, in the water and even underground!


Log Cabin, to experience life in another era. All kinds of animals depend on trees to build their homes, keep warm, find and store food, and raise their families. The Log Cabin is a perfect example of how people rely on trees to provide these same things. Tucked away in a lush gully, a visit to the Log Cabin, complete with a fireplace, historic photos and stories, and porch from which to observe the forest is like a step back in time.


For information visit www.morrisarboretum.org.


Registration Opens for Paper Mill Run

Historic RittenhouseTown will hosts its 20th annual Paper Mill Run 5K Race on September 12 at 10 a.m. The course begins and ends at RittenhouseTown and uses a scenic route through the Wissahickon Valley section of Fairmount Park. The Paper Mill Run is open to all ages and benefits the continuing preservation, restoration and educational efforts of Historic RittenhouseTown, a National Historic Landmark District and 1690 site of North America’s first paper mill.


Prizes are awarded to the top three male and female runners and for individual age categories.  All runners receive a commemorative race t-shirt and complementary refreshments. Runners can pre-register at www.rittenhousetown.org  until September 11 at 5 p.m. for a fee of $20.  Registration on the day of the race will begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue until 9:45 a.m.  The fee for day-of-race registration is $25. This event is sponsored by Beneficial Bank, City Tavern, G-town Radio and Daddy’s Lemonade.


$70K Grant for Conservation Treaty

The City of Philadelphia will receive $70,000 in grant funding as part of the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds. The Treaty, a partnership between The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of Philadelphia, and Fairmount Park is a commitment to restore, conserve and protect valuable bird habitat within Philadelphia’s urban environment and to develop an informed public through education and training programs. The grant was announced August 13 at the Philadelphia Zoo. The ceremony coincided with “Zoo Night,” an event at the American Ornithologists Union’s annual meeting.


“Philadelphia lies along the Atlantic Flyway and is an essential urban sanctuary for migrating birds,” said Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis. “City parks can provide important resting and breeding grounds for thousands of migrating birds that fly through Philadelphia every spring and fall. This agreement is a testament to the high quality of natural areas in Philadelphia’s parks.”


The Treaty will support initiatives in Philadelphia such as a joint program between Audubon Pennsylvania, the Zoo, and the Academy of Natural Sciences to study migratory bird collisions with buildings in Center City. The City will also increase and improve protected natural areas. Partner organizations will also match the grant money with funding and “in-kind” contributions of goods and services.


Workshop on Native Plants

The Northwest Gardening Association is hosting a workshop on “Native Plants in the Landscape” on Saturday, August, 22, 10-11 a.m. at Awbury Recreation Center, 6101 Ardleigh Street. Environmental horticulturist Paco Verin will teach why native plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought-resistant, low-maintenance landscape while benefiting the environment. Admission is free.  For more information or to R.S.V.P., please call 215-224-5872.


Sharpen Your Speaking at Toastmasters

Covenant Toastmasters Club will meet Wednesday, August 26, at Lovett Library, 6945 Germantown Avenue from 7-8:30pm.  Covenant Toastmasters Club provides a comfortable and instructive environment in which to develop public speaking and leadership skills.  Guests are always welcome to visit our meetings.  For more information visit  http://covenant.freetoasthost.us.


Back to the Germantown Newspapers Home Page

 

From the Chronicle • Germantown News Stories

August 20, 2009

Property Woes Raise Questions of Settlement’s Financial Stability


Old, New Boards Join to Elect YMCA Officers


PWD Meets with Queen Lane Residents Over Flooding


No Decision Yet in Dispute Over  Proposed Group Home


Happy Hollow Soup Kitchen


Back to School at Brand New Life


Community Day at High Street


SEPTA Discusses Rail Issues


Speakers Advocate Major Shifts in City Tax Policies


Independent Filmmakers Find a Venue at Flickering Light


FOW to Hold Annual Ice Cream Social


FOW to Hold Annual Ice Cream Social


$170,000 Grant to Conservation Corps


Reward Increases in Murder of Housing Authority Employee


‘Community in a Building’ at Yorkhouse


‘Enterprising Women’ Winners Announced


Author of Young Adult Novels at Bookstore


Collage Owner Follows Her Dream


Maxwell Mansion to Celebrate 150th Year


Obituary: John A. “Jack” Glenn, 64


Family Planning for Low Income Women


Register Now for Philadelphia Distance Run


Go ‘Out on a Limb’ at Morris Arboretum


Registration Opens for Paper Mill Run


$70K Grant for Conservation Treaty


Workshop on Native Plants

This summer’s budget impasse in Harrisburg is having an across-the-board impact – including on child care. Above, children and parents spoke out on the corner of Greene Street and Chelten Avenue on Thursday, August 13, about the affect the budget battle is having on them.